The Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, queried the Commission for presenting a budgetary proposal, which was at variance with the one earlier presented to the National Assembly for the 2019 general elections by President Muhammadu Buhari.
While President Buhari presented a proposal of N143.512 billion to the National Assembly for INEC in the 2018 budget for the conduct of 2019 polls, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, presented a budgetary proposal of N189.2 billion to the Senate Committee on INEC during its budget defence, for the conduct of the same elections.
After the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif, declared the session open and the INEC Chairman and his commissioners and senators introduced themselves, Yakubu was then asked to present the Commission’s budget.
While presenting the budget to the committee, Yakubu said that the sum of N134.4 billion was for election operation cost, while N27.5 billion was for election technological cost.
He also explained that out of the budget figure, the sum of N22.7 billion was earmarked for election administrative cost and N4.6 billion was mapped out for miscellaneous cost.
However, a member of the committee, Senator Mohammed Hassan, pointed out that there was a conflict of request in the budget between what President Buhari earlier presented to the Senate and the request by the INEC chairman.
“There is a conflict of request here between the letter presented by Mr. President and the budget presented by INEC. You are asking for N189 billion, meanwhile, Mr. President is asking for N143 billion for the 2018 budget while he said that the balance of about N45.7 billion should be captured in the 2019 budget.
“The president is saying that the additional N45.7 billion will be requested for in the 2019 budget. You are asking for N189 billion. Which of these requests should we focus on?” Hassan asked.
However, responding, Yakubu said that there was no conflict in the proposals, arguing that the figures the president requested for 2018 budget and 2019 budget would add up to the sum of N189 billion.
“There is no conflict in the letters. If you add up the requests by the president and INEC, they add up. The sequence of disbursement is up for the legislature and the executive to decide,” he stated.
Not being convinced by his argument, however, the committee chairman directed that the INEC chairman and his team should meet with the committee today to harmonise the proposals to avoid confusion during its passage and also to forestall anything that might hamper the smooth conduct of the 2019 general elections.
The INEC chairman also drew the attention of the committee to the fact that the difference between the budget of INEC in 2015 and that of 2019 was as a result of so many factors including the increase in the number of registered voters.
According to him, there is a difference of N69 billion between the budget of INEC in 2015 and that of 2019, noting that the Commission spent the sum of N120 billion in the conduct of the polls in 2015.
“Mr. Chairman, I wish to draw the attention of this committee to the fact that there is a difference of N69 billion in the budgets of 2015 and 2019. In 2015, we had 70 million registered voters. As of last week Saturday, we now have over 80 million registered voters.
“All major activities are pegged against the total number of voters. In 2015, we had only 42 political parties. We now have 91 registered political parties eligible to take part in the 2019 general elections,” he said.